Dr. Casey Solem is a 26-year-old emergency department resident at University Medical Center. He was one of 24 students to graduate in the inaugural class from the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, in May 2011.
Dr. Solem was also elected by his peers to speak at the convocation ceremony. He was the only graduate to give a speech, and he said it was quite an honor.
“It was a class vote,” Dr. Solem explained. “I was highly involved with everything including representing the campus as the student government chairman for two years.”
He said that he has always been involved in many activities and groups because he loves to meet people. “You have to get involved for the purpose of knowing people,” he said.
Dr. Solem attributes his career choice to his love for people.
Both his father and uncle have been emergency department doctors, but they did not sway his decision to be a physician.
“When I was in high school, I had this idea that I wanted to do something in science. But I said ‘I’m not going to do what my dad does,’” he explained.
During his senior year at Chaparral High School, he broke his leg playing football. It was then that he knew that being a medical doctor was in his future.
“It is unfortunate to see people in their time of need. However, in the ED, I have the ability to connect to somebody in the time when they need the connection,” he said. “I am able to provide them comfort.”
He said he is honored to be able to serve people who need his help.
After his high school graduation, Dr. Solem attended Arizona State University where he obtained his bachelor of science degree in biology. He served on the executive board of his fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi, six of eight semesters and was asked to be a part of the Undergraduate Advisor Committee, as an advisor to the National Grand Council.
The medical school application process was the next phase of Dr. Solem’s life. He explained that early in the process he was overwhelmed and panic-stricken.
“I was humbled,” he said. He struggled to find the perfect word to explain the process.
He would encourage current and future applicants by explaining that the entire process is nerve-wracking and that everyone feels that way.
“Actually, during the process I never felt so unsure,” he said.
Dr. Solem applied to “about 15” medical schools. He explained that each acceptance or interview letter he received helped him regain his confidence.
He offers advice to any student who is a part of this process.
“Don’t think you’re the only person who doesn’t feel good enough. I lost sleep over it. The people who apply to medical school are pretty successful at what they’ve done. But you can’t lose sight of your goal and who you are. It’s not always just about the medical knowledge. It’s about what else you’re able to bring to the table too.”
Last year, he sat on the Admissions Committee for the College of Medicine – Phoenix. Therefore, he has great experience and knowledge about what it takes to endure the process.
In addition to offering advice to future students, Dr. Solem would like to encourage the alumni to stay involved.
“Try to keep yourself up-to-date with what’s going on. I’d be willing to bet that not many alumni, even those who graduated last year, would totally recognize the College of Medicine today. There’s an evolution of things down here. It’s pretty fun to be up-to-date,” he said.
Since speaking at his convocation ceremony, Dr. Solem has moved to Tucson with his wife Sara. He planned to begin his residency in early July and hopes to remain in the state of Arizona afterward.
At the moment, he is unsure about the duration of his residency and whether or not he will apply for a fellowship program. He said he is yet to decide whether he wants to pursue an academic route, community practice or a career in military medicine.
When he’s away from the hospital, Dr. Solem plans to spend quality time with his wife and do the extracurricular activities that he loves.
“I do lots of things. I like to consider myself well-rounded instead of solely into one activity," he said. "I jog but I don’t run marathons. I hike but I haven’t climbed Everest. I cycle but I haven’t ridden the Tour de France."
Most of all, Dr. Solem said that he’s excited to continue his work with people. He has met many individuals along the way who have encouraged him to continue his work and education. Dr. Stuart Flynn, dean of the College of Medicine – Phoenix, is one of these people. Dr. Flynn not only served as Dr. Solem’s mentor during his education, but also “as a best friend.”
“Even to this day now, I think of him as a better friend than some of my friends. He helped me during a time of need, professionally, personally, and went above and beyond what he needed to do as a dean,” he explained.
When Dr. Solem’s wife, Sara, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Dr. Flynn was one of the first he called.
“During my third year when Sara was diagnosed, he retaught me about lymphoma. It was a lecture he had taught me two months before she was diagnosed. I called him sobbing in tears. He went through everything with me,” Dr. Solem explained. “He was and is the best friend you could possibly have as somebody in the medical community.”
One day he hopes he can be this type of friend or mentor to someone else.
“If I could ever do that for somebody else and help them navigate the rough waters of medical school and residency, I’d be very satisfied with my life. I truly believe that to be a good doctor you’ve got to be a good teacher,” Dr. Solem said, with a smile.